There are few things more enjoyable in the summer than getting together with friends or family and having a BBQ in the sun. However, with so many pre-prepared BBQ meats and overly sweet marinades we often consume dangerous levels of carcinogens. So how do you go about enjoying a summer BBQ without taking in such a large dose of these toxic compounds?
Well first it’s important to know exactly what carcinogens are, the damage they cause and how grilling creates them…
The Danger of Carcinogens
Carcinogens are any substance that has a link to causing cancer. They can be consumed through radiation, smoking and – unfortunately for BBQ lovers – processed meats.
The carcinogen level in processed meats is increased by cooking them at high temperatures. As the process naturally produces heterocyclic amines (HCAs) which are also found in cigarette smoke. The amino acids and sugars that are present in meats combine in the cooking process causing the HCAs.
These cancer causing agents increase in number the longer you cook your meat for and their numbers soar to astronomical numbers in charred meat. The good news for vegetarians is that they lack the same amino acid and sugar combination as meats and therefore so you can burn and char your vegetables to your heart’s content! It’s the simple way to cut carcinogens on your BBQ by 100%.
For those of us however who simply can not resist the delicious taste of steak or burgers there are plenty of ways to reduce the carcinogen levels next time you have a BBQ.
Make sure you’re picking up fresh meats rather than processed meats! Look for the leanest and least fatty cuts, as fat creates more HCAs than lean meat. Trim off any fat before you begin cooking.
From there marinating the meats before cooking is absolutely essential to the reduction of HCAs. However, don’t just slather on a generic BBQ sauce from a packet which will be high in sugars.
The cancer research center in Hawaii found that a teriyaki or a turmeric and garlic marinade sauce could reduce carcinogens by around 67% and 50% respectively. Additionally herbs such as basil, oregano and rosemary have an antioxidizing effect on carcinogens, as they are rich in carnosic acid, carnosol and rosmarinic acid.
The most important thing during the cooking process is to ensure that you don’t char the meat. To avoid this don’t put your BBQ on its highest setting – go for a medium heat and turn the meat regularly. The lower heat will stop you from charring the meat when you turn your back for a little longer than anticipated – we’ve all been there!
To control fiery flare ups keep a squirt bottle with you, this will prevent the flames charring the meat before you can do anything about it. Additionally, don’t cook your meat beyond medium rare, the longer you cook for the more carcinogens will be produced.
If you’ve followed every instruction above you will be able to sit down and enjoy a delicious BBQ with a hugely reduced rate of carcinogens. However, there is one piece of advice for eating – do NOT eat any charred meat. No matter how skilled and careful you are on the BBQ, there is usually a little bit of char on a piece of meat. Don’t undo the hard work of marinating, trimming fat and watching the grill like a hawk to throw it all away on a piece of tasteless charred meat!
After all the eating and enjoyment is done (and the BBQ has cooled down) make sure you wash off the grill. Little pieces of charred meat will inevitably be stuck to the metal and will affect the carcinogen level of your next BBQ.
Research by the biology and the biotechnology research program shows that the simple act of marinating and avoiding charred meats can reduce carcinogens by between 92-99%. The summer BBQ is something that almost all of us enjoy and doesn’t have to be detrimental to your health. So get your apron on, squirt bottle in one hand, spatula in the other and enjoy a delicious summer.